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Spain returns to school, but pandemic exposes inequality

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Spain returns to school, but pandemic exposes inequality

Spain became the first country in Western Europe to report half a million confirmed cases of coronavirus on Monday, and on Friday recorded the highest daily number of cases since May.

To stop the spread of infection in schools, in late August, the government set rules: all students aged six and over must wear masks in class; class sizes should be reduced; students should be kept in designated “bubbles” so they do not mix; tables should be located at a distance of at least 1.5 meters from each other; all schools should improve outdoor ventilation and provide hand disinfection stations.

However, the new Covid-19 rules risk widening the gap between rich and poor, exacerbating the gap between private and public schools, especially in the hardest hit areas of Madrid.

In the Spanish capital, the British Council School, a private paying institution, was already building a new open-air extension to its cafeteria when new Covid-19 guidelines were announced.

Now, six prefabricated mobile classrooms are being installed here, and its playground has been transformed into a rainbow maze of plastic partitions to keep students in their security bubbles.

The British Council School of Madrid has already built a new open-air extension to its cafeteria and is now installing six prefabricated mobile classrooms.

“It forces you to think creatively, look at space differently and look at the basics of learning,” explains the head of the school Mercedes Hernandez.

Hernandez admits that her school is in a privileged position. “Technology, a large campus and great Spanish weather give us the opportunity to study in a wide variety of locations in many different ways,” she tells CNN.

On a tour of the suburban campus, Hernandez introduces the school’s head nurse, Inmaculada Erranz, who is teaching two smiling nurses who have joined her team ahead of the new school year.

Italy prepares to go back to school ... with saws

They are just a few of the new hires the school has hired to help shoulder the burden of Covid-19 protocols: extra classes, testing and health checks.

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The infirmary is littered with hand sanitizers, masks, face masks and thermometers. Herranz injects a pink liquid into our hands – the gold standard for disinfectant gels, she assures us.

Hernandez says the school makes the most of its happiness. He was able to act quickly – before government regulations were issued – because he drew on the experience of other British Council schools, especially in China.

    Inmaculada Erranz, Head Nurse at the British Council School in Madrid.

“In January and February, the school began to form an incident management team, looking at possible scenarios – what will happen and what will we do?” says Hernandez. “Little did we know that in a few weeks he would reach Italy, and then to us.”

School exposes inequality

The difference between private and public schools in Madrid is striking, especially in working-class areas in the south, where the virus has been growing the fastest in recent weeks.

In the Leganés area, Aben Hamza Public School has a cracked concrete playground and steel shutters on the windows.

Maria Carmen Morillas of the National Parents’ Association says classes here can easily exceed 30 students, far exceeding government regulations.

Aben Hamza Public School is not receiving the same financial investment, and the budget is still being processed.

But there are no builders building extensions to already well-ventilated classrooms, and there are no orientation programs for new hires. This is because budgets are still being processed.

“The delays have obviously created distrust,” she says. “A financial investment is absolutely necessary: ​​teachers need to be hired now, from day one, not after weeks and weeks of waiting.”

At the end of August, Madrid’s municipal government finally pledged € 370 million ($ 437 million) for measures to tackle Covid-19 in schools, promising to hire 11,000 new teachers. But the news came too late for many of the city’s schools, which had to postpone the start of the school year.

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The teachers are also disappointed.

“There was no forward planning,” says Laura McGregor, an English teacher at a private school in Madrid, whose own children attend a public school in the city center.

Here's what happened when the students went to school during the 1918 pandemic.

“We knew the virus would still be with us in September – plans had to be in place from July so that school administrations had time to prepare,” she says.

“They now work around the clock with no time to think or plan. The first few weeks of the semester will be really chaotic. “

To make matters worse, if classes cannot be safe, a spokesperson for the Morillas parent association fears that public school students may be forced to return to online learning. She fears that this will cause them to lag behind their peers in private schools that may remain open.

Morillas have four children of their own and only one computer, which they all had to share to study at the peak of the pandemic.

“The screen is not a school,” she says bluntly.

“Over the past few months, a digital divide has formed that has further widened the social divide, a problem that is now much deeper and more difficult to address.”

The pandemic underscores inequality in other European countries as well.

During isolation in the UK, 31% of private schools offered students four or more lessons per day, compared with 6% of public schools, University College London study found. In half of the private schools surveyed, students spent four or more hours a day on school assignments, but in public schools this figure was only 18%.
And in August, students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who were unable to pass exams received grades determined by the algorithm, resulting in protesting alleged algorithmic bias against students from more disadvantaged families.
Using an algorithm that has since returned The UK government had to ensure fairness by ensuring that grades for the 2020 cohort are distributed along the lines of previous years, taking into account teacher-predicted grades and teacher ratings to determine grades. But crucially, he also took into account the historical performance of schools that benefited students from the more affluent.

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Vladimir Putin has delayed the invasion of Ukraine at least three times.

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Putin has repeatedly consulted with Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu about the invasion, Europa Press told Ukraine’s chief intelligence director Vadim Skibitsky.

According to Skibitsky, it was the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which is responsible for counterintelligence and espionage work, that put pressure on Gerasimov and other military agencies to agree to launch an offensive. .

However, according to the Ukrainian intelligence services, the FSB considered that by the end of February sufficient preparations had already been made to guarantee the success of the Russian Armed Forces in a lightning invasion.

However, according to Kyiv, the Russian General Staff provided the Russian troops with supplies and ammunition for only three days, hoping that the offensive would be swift and immediately successful.

The head of Ukrainian intelligence also emphasized the cooperation of local residents, who always provided the Ukrainian authorities with up-to-date information about the Russian army, such as the number of soldiers or the exact location of troops.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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Life sentence for former Swedish official for spying for Russia

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A Stockholm court on Monday sentenced a former Swedish intelligence officer to life in prison for spying for Russia, and his brother to at least 12 years in prison. In what is considered one of the most serious cases in Swedish counterintelligence history, much of the trial took place behind closed doors in the name of national security.

According to the prosecution, it was Russian military intelligence, the GRU, who took advantage of the information provided by the two brothers between 2011 and their arrest at the end of 2021.

Peyman Kia, 42, has held many senior positions in the Swedish security apparatus, including the army and his country’s intelligence services (Säpo). His younger brother, Payam, 35, is accused of “participating in the planning” of the plot and of “managing contacts with Russia and the GRU, including passing on information and receiving financial rewards.”

Both men deny the charges, and their lawyers have demanded an acquittal on charges of “aggravated espionage,” according to the Swedish news agency TT.

The trial coincides with another case of alleged Russian espionage, with the arrest of the Russian-born couple in late November in a suburb of Stockholm by a police team arriving at dawn in a Blackhawk helicopter.

Research website Bellingcat identified them as Sergei Skvortsov and Elena Kulkova. The couple allegedly acted as sleeper agents for Moscow, having moved to Sweden in the late 1990s.

According to Swedish press reports, the couple ran companies specializing in the import and export of electronic components and industrial technology.

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The man was again detained at the end of November for “illegal intelligence activities.” His partner, suspected of being an accomplice, has been released but remains under investigation.

According to Swedish authorities, the arrests are not related to the trial of the Kia brothers.

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Ukraine admitted that Russia may announce a general mobilization

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“They can strengthen their positions. We understand that this can happen. At the same time, we do not rule out that they will announce a general mobilization,” Danilov said in an interview with the Ukrainska Pravda online publication.

Danilov believed that this mobilization would also be convened “to exterminate as many as possible” of Russian citizens, so that “they would no longer have any problems on their territory.”

In this sense, Danilov also reminded that Russia has not given up on securing control over Kyiv or the idea of ​​the complete “destruction” of Ukraine. “We have to be ready for anything,” he said.

“I want everyone to understand that [os russos] they have not given up on the idea of ​​destroying our nation. If they don’t have Kyiv in their hands, they won’t have anything in their hands, we must understand this,” continued Danilov, who also did not rule out that a new Russian offensive would come from “Belarus and other territories.” .

As such, Danilov praised the decision of many of its residents who chose to stay in the Ukrainian capital when the war broke out in order to defend the city.

“They expected that there would be panic, that people would run, that there would be nothing to protect Kyiv,” he added, referring to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

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At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The Russian invasion, justified by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the need to “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine for Russia’s security, was condemned by the international community at large, which responded by sending weapons to Ukraine and imposing political and economic sanctions on Russia.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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